CHICAGO — Even to Sister Jean, the lovable nonagenarian nun who became a star during Loyola Chicago’s stunning run to the Final Four two years ago, this is new territory.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought big chunks of the world to a near standstill.
“This is very different,” said Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, who turned 100 last August. “Spanish flu was just about over in 1919 when I was born and so I only know about that through hearsay and what my family told me. ... I’ve lived through the Depression, I’ve lived through World War II and all these other things that have happened within the last 20 years — but nothing like this.
“It’s a totally whole new thing. It’s sort of like a futuristic movie where things just happen when everything is foggy and people aren’t alert.”
Though there are no games, Sister Jean has been staying busy.
She’s still working. She’s been undergoing physical therapy — lately only in her room — at the downtown rehab facility where she has lived for about two years following a broken hip. The recent treatment has been to strengthen her right leg following a bout of shingles.
Loyola released a video this week with her wearing a maroon and gold scarf urging others to stay home and practice social distancing. She calls it “a team effort” and encourages people to pray for healthcare workers and store employees who are “making sacrifices for us.”
Sister Jean said she has been calling basketball players to see how they’re doing and make sure they’re keeping up with their schoolwork with the campus basically shut down. All members of the team are also required to complete an essay — “Desires of the Heart” — detailing their goals.
Sister Jean was hoping Loyola would get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since that magical Final Four run. A loss to Valparaiso in the Missouri Valley quarterfinals basically dashed those hopes for her Ramblers, who finished this season 21-11.
Had there been an NCAA Tournament this year? She knows who her pick to win would have been.
“I was thinking that Kentucky would win it this year,” Sister Jean said.